Ballari: For the first time in the past 15 years, the BJP is looking beyond the 'Ballari Reddy brothers' to wrest the iron ore rich Ballari Lok Sabha seat from the Congress.
Ballari was once considered a citadel of the Grand Old Party -Congress- as it was from here that UPA chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi made her successful electoral debut in 1999 defeating BJP senior leader Ms Sushma Swaraj in a Lok Sabha bypoll.
However, in 2004, the BJP wrested this seat from the Congress and continued its winning streak in subsequent general elections under the able stewardship of the Reddy mine barons- Gali Janardhan Reddy, Gali Karunakar Reddy, Gali Somashekhar Reddy and their close confidante Mr B Sriramulu.
In the last 15 years, the Reddy mine barons have seen many ups and downs in politics following their alleged involvement in the multi-crore illegal iron mining scam and as a result, their political clout too has diminished in the district. Now, the selection of Mr Y Devendrappa, who recently quit the Congress, as the BJP candidate for Ballari, is being interpreted in political circles as the beginning of the decline of the Reddy brothers' political clout in the mining district.
The BJP was forced to look beyond the Reddy brothers especially after Ms J. Shanta, Valimiki strongman Mr Sriramulu's sister, suffered a humiliating defeat in the October 2018 byelections to Ballari losing by over 2.4 lakh votes to Congress candidate V.S. Ugrappa. The BJP is now banking on 'rebel' Congress leaders - the Jarkiholi brothers from Belagavi as Mr Devendrappa happens to be their relative. Also, there is talk that the Jarkiholi brothers are likely to play an active role in Ballari politics instead of the Reddy brothers to consolidate the Valmiki (Naik) community votes which is why they sought the ticket for Mr Devendrappa. The Jarkiholi brothers' sister is Mr Devendrappa's daughter-in-law. “The BJP is banking on three Congress MLAs from the district- B Nagendra, JN Ganesh and Bhima Naik to ensure a victory for Devendra, since they are loyal to Ramesh Jarkiholi", said a top source adding that another Congress MLA, Anand Singh, is away from his constituency after the resort brawl between him and legi
slator Ganesh. Apart from 'rebel' Congress leaders, JD(S) leaders too not happy with the treatment being meted out to them. JD(S) senior leader Hothur Mohammed Iqbal said more than 1.5 lakh JD(S) votes went to Ugrappa in last year's by-poll and thus ensured him a victory with a record margin. "But, the local Congress leadership takes the JD(S) for granted and did not take our cadre into confidence in this election. If the Congress leaders continue to do this, the LS poll verdict will be an adverse one", Mr Iqbal warned.
Congress MLC K.C. Kondaiah meanwhile claimed his party is in a strong position compared to the BJP as there are six party MLAs and two MPs, including a Rajya Sabha member besides two MLCs in the district. "We will all fight together and ensure the victory of Congress candidate V.S. Ugrappa," he said.
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